When you think of dried legumes, probably one of the first that comes to mind is beans. From kidney beans and mung beans to black beans, there are many different kinds. Today we'll look at all the weird and wonderful recipes you can do with the cannellini kind, from classic savory dishes to innovative desserts, which goes to show that there are actually many ways you can use them in your cooking.
This traditional Turkish bean dish often gets compared to baked beans but is probably best described as a classic stew. This dish can be found in many local and small restaurants for a quick meal served with some rice either on the side or under the beans. In fact, on a small street in Istanbul in the shadows of the Süleymaniye Mosque, a restaurant almost exclusively serves "kuru fasulye," and people flock to get a taste of it. There are many different ways to prepare this dish (for example, with or without meat), but here is a pretty basic one to get you started on your bean journey.
You can – you don’t have to but it is strongly advised – let the beans rest in water the night before to speed up the cooking. Just do not forget to pour the water out, and start anew in the morning.
Cook your beans for about 20-30 minutes and turn the heat off. Let the beans rest in the pot sealed with the lid.
Add to a separate pot, a bit of vegetable oil, finely chopped onions and garlic and sautee them for a bit, until they soften. Add the tomato paste and give it a good stir.
Finally pour the cooked beans with the water they were cooked with to the onion mixture. Let the beans simmer for about 30-40 minutes until they have softened. Close to the end of the cooking, you should add a pinch of sugar and salt to taste. Serve with some mint if you like the taste of it.
Every family has their own recipe and a favorite addition. My aunt always adds just a tiny bit of fenugreek (çemen otu in Turkish). It is a very potent spice, so just a tip of a knife or ¼ of a teaspoon – depending on how much you make – will suffice.
Keep in mind that even cannellini beans have different kinds, and hence your cooking time must change accordingly. For ease and efficiency, you should cook beans beforehand and toss them into the freezer for faster cooking.
Every restaurant, especially the ones selling the classic Turkish meatballs "köfte," serves this salad as a side dish. The great thing is most of them might even offer it for free! As with kuru fasulye, this dish also has so many variations that you could make a list of them.
If you don’t have any precooked beans at the ready, cook them and let them cool.
Chop the onions thinly in the shape of crescents and sprinkle some salt over them. Knead them a bit to soften them, and if you have the time, let them rest a bit.
Chop the parsley, green onions and garlic into small pieces. Put all the ingredients into a bowl and add the lemon juice, red pepper flakes and a dash of salt, drizzle the olive oil and give it a good mix. Serve.
Adding extras is always encouraged. I like to add some thinly chopped red cabbage as well. Tomatoes, olives, red peppers and so many more additions can be seen in variations of this Turkish staple.
If you want to add more protein to this dish, do it the classic Antalya way. Add quarters of boiled eggs to the bean mix and drizzle some tahini over it.
DESSERTS - with beans?
Now that we have traditional recipes with beans out of the way, it is time to dive into the outright weird ways that they can be used. I say, weird, but many people familiar with Middle Eastern cultures already know that a sweet dish like ashura contains beans as a hearty ingredient. It only makes sense to use these nutritious legumes in sweeter endeavors.
There are many gluten-free brownie recipes out there, but swapping out the flour for legumes is very intriguing indeed. Although the idea may not be that appetizing, it's worth giving it a try. It's great amusement to see the surprised look on people's faces after you tell them the main ingredients in these brownies.
Like with piyaz, you need the beans cooked and cooled off. Put these into a food processor and run them through until it is smooth.
In a separate bowl, crack your eggs and add the sugar. Mix this well until the sugar dissolves or until the mixture gets lighter in color and starts to get fluffy. Add the tahini, salt, cacao and the baking powder and continue mixing until well incorporated. Finally, add the smooth bean paste into it and mix. You can also add crushed nuts into the mixture for extra flavor and texture.
Bake at 180 degrees Celsius (356 degrees Fahrenheit) until it is baked through – depending on the baking dish you use, that will take about 20-40 minutes or more.
Dust the brownies with some powdered sugar for fun, which always creates a great contrast in looks against the dark chocolate backdrop.
These are lovingly called “yalancı kestane şekeri” or fake candied chestnuts. The original candy is basically chestnuts cooked in a sugary syrup that turns them soft, which is why this dish reminds many of truffles. This dish is not only a delicious way to use beans but also a much cheaper way to make "truffles." When my husband ate one of these, I wanted him to guess what it was made of, and he said it reminded him of halva. Another plus of this dish is that it is gluten-free.
Mix the eggs and the sugar until you get a light and fluffy mixture. Run the beans through a blender or food processor to get a smooth paste and add to the eggs. Then add in the butter, nuts and baking powder. Stir until the mixture is completely incorporated. The dough might look curdled, but don't worry about that.
Bake this at 150 degrees Celsius (300 degrees Fahrenheit) for an hour. When it has mostly cooled off, knead it through and let it cool off completely in the fridge. Once cooled off, grab small portions and form them into the shapes you desire. Small balls the size of walnuts are a fun shape and size.
Dip the truffles in chocolate or just drizzle some on top, or skip the chocolate altogether if that tickles your fancy.
You can enjoy this recipe in the form of a cake as well. Just let it cool off completely in the dish you baked it in and cover with a chocolate glaze.
When I crush the nuts for this recipe, I like the different sizes of the pieces of nuts, hence I keep some of them chunkier for a variation in textures. Also, make sure you do not use preroasted nuts as this recipe needs to be baked for a long time.